By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Like many students, Bea Samson, 17, maintains a blog where she can express her opinion, her thoughts and her ideas. Criticisms on school policies are among the many things Samson blogs about. And it was also the very same reason she was suspended by their school principal during her senior year in high school.
“I know that I might have said something offensive. But it is only offensive to people who I am referring to. Others might just find the things I have said funny but true,” Samson told Bulatlat.
Samson was then studying at the Quezon City Science High School. She was a member of The Electron, the student publication, when she was still in her second year. “We were trained to write well so that we would be prepared for various inter-school journalism competitions during our fourth year,” Samson said, “We (students and our adviser) had so many plans. But all these were put in vain when our publication adviser was relieved from his position in June 2008.”
News spread on campus that their adviser, Rex Sandiego, had an argument with their principal Dr. Zenaida Sadsad. Samson said their principal later on explained that the school was merely giving other teachers an opportunity to handle the school publication. But later on, student members of the editorial board were also replaced.
“She (Sadsad) just does not want her policies to be questioned,” Samson said, adding that The Electron under Sandiego writes about issues ranging from national to school issues including policies implemented by Sadsad. With this, Samsom poured her frustrations in her blog around last week of June 2008.
First and Last warning
Aside from her school policies, Sadsad was also heavily criticized by students for changing a lot of things in their school that were already considered as a tradition. For one, the school did not celebrate their 41st foundation day. Instead, Sadsad informed the students that there would only be a one-hour program, as a celebration of the foundation day would only interrupt classes.
Bea Samson recalls her experience under her anti-blogger high school principal (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
Samson’s batchmates were among the many who complained about Sadsad’s decision. So on September 17, 2008, during their foundation day, her batchmates brought placards that read “Happy 41st Foundation Hour” and marched around the soccer field. Around 2:00 p.m., it turned out that 32 minutes of the one-hour program would be allotted to Sadsad’s speech, warning students not to disobey her.
It was also during her 32-minute speech that Sadsad warned the students not to write their negative comments in their respective blogs, saying that she has someone working for her who checks the students’ blogs. Sadsad also added that while she was surprised by the students’ protest action, a time would come when it would be her turn to surprise the students so they should be worried.
But this did not stop the students from continuing with their online protest activities. Despite Sadsad’s warnings, many still blogged about their frustrations over the cancellation of the school’s foundation celebration. Samson was among them.
On November 16, 2008, one of Samson’s classmates told her to erase her blog. There were news that school authorities were already looking into students’ blogs and social networking sites. But Samson decided not to erase her blog entries. “Why should I erase mine?” she said, adding that she did nothing wrong.
As expected, Samson was summoned to the principal’s office on November 19. She was confronted by no less than Sadsad, Mr. Diaz a teacher, the department heads and her class adviser. She was a given a print-out of her blog about foundation day and was asked to read it aloud.
In the said blog entry, she reiterated her frustrations that her teacher Sandiego was relieved from the publication adviser post. She also expressed her frustrations on Sadsad’s decision regarding foundation day.
“I was partly laughing and crying. It was embarrassing,” she told Bulatlat when asked how she felt while reading aloud her blog entry in front of Sadsad.
There were three other students who were also summoned to the principal’s office because of the things that they wrote in their respective blogs. They are Eufemio Agbayani III, who wrote a spoof about Sadsad, Kathleen Largo, who wrote about the unfair changes in the electives given to students and Mychael Miravite, who criticized how teachers conduct their classes.
Sadsad told Samson that she needs to talk to her parents the following day. “It was my mom who came. She was told about what happened and that we should wait for the decision of the school’s discipline committee,” Samson said. The discipline committee is composed of department heads and the guidance counselors.
Samson’s parents were asked to return on January 7, 2009. They were told that a ten-day suspension would be served and would be effective the following day. Samson’s mother contested that the suspension should be served immediately because the third periodical examinations is scheduled the following week. Aside from the suspension, they were told that the four students would not be allowed to re-take their missed quizzes during the duration of their suspension and they would also not be allowed to join the commencement exercises.